NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Family Hour showcases Tiny Desk Concerts alumni

John Melendez

A congregation of music fans filed into the pews of the church in anticipation of the concert that was about to begin.

On Tuesday night, Central Presbyterian Church held the first Tiny Desk Family Hour showcase, a three-hour-long concert series based off NPR Music’s popular Tiny Desk Concerts series on Youtube. The event featured nine artists who had previously been featured in the series and was hosted by Bob Boilen, co-creator of the video series.

Attendees were not privy to the show’s lineup beforehand and were left guessing who came next until the end. Before the music began, Boilen opened up the show by talking about the Tiny Desk Contest, a competition in its fifth year that asks musicians to submit a video of them performing at a desk in the hopes of finding new talent.

The first artist to begin the showcase was Gaelynn Lea, violinist, songwriter and winner of the second contest. The showcase began with a deep, soulful performance of “Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun.” Her violin and message permeated through the church. Born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, Lea ended her three-song set with “I Wait,” a song about empowering the disabled community and a need for change and acceptance in society.

Brooklyn soul-singer Cautious Clay took the stage next. The artist explained that the Tiny Desk Concerts environment had initially made him nervous when he performed for the series. Clay’s five-song-set featured a couple of songs from his upcoming EP, “Table of Context,” but the moments where he broke into a flute or saxophone solo showed the young artist’s musical versatility and talent.

The showcase also brought singer-songwriter John Paul White, formerly one-half of the Grammy-award winning duo The Civil Wars. White’s gentle yet powerful voice touched on intimate topics such as missing his children while touring.

In the spirit of the Tiny Desk Concerts video series, the artists spanned a wide variety of styles, genres and group sizes. The female folk trio Mountain Man harmonized over a shared acoustic guitar, with their voices blending together and adding texture to each other. Gina Chavez, Latin singer-songwriter and 10-time Austin Music Awards winner, and her band took the stage in full force despite Chavez’s currently ailing throat.

Fragile Rock, a musical collective of musicians/ puppeteers and self-described “emo puppet band,” brought a yet unfelt garage rock energy into the church. From jokes to jumping off stage and high-fiving the audience, the band had their unique talents and identities on full display.

The three final artists at the showcase were just as talented as they were different from each other. Amanda Palmer played two songs, her musical genre style falling in between alternative rock and dark cabaret. Palmer’s second song, “The Ride,” was an intense ten-minute piano piece filled with raw, emotional storytelling. Haitian rapper and musician Wyclef Jean took the stage and filled the room with a laid-back, carefree atmosphere. After a brief freestyle, Jean played three songs, with college musicians Jeremy Torres and Jazzy Aubra joining him the final two. Torres and Aubra are both featured on his latest album, “Wyclef Goes Back to School.”

Strutting in wearing a black bandana as a mask and accompanied by a full band wearing TSA uniforms, hip hop artist Leikeli47 closed off the showcase. The crowd stood, clapped, snapped and danced along to the rhythmic bass and beats of the band as her voice flowed over the music until the last second.